Obia Ewah has been disrupting the personal care products industry with Obia Naturals, a manufacturer of vegan-based natural hair and skin care products sold in more than 21 countries.
Another Black female entrepreneur, Eunique Jones Gibson, has found success through brisk sales of her creation #CultureTags, the popular trivia card game inspired by Black culture and played by people of various races and backgrounds.
Ewah and Jones Gibson represent two diverse female entrepreneurs being saluted today by Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, as part of International Women’s Day (IWD) and throughout Women’s History Month (WHM) over the next few weeks. Amazon reportedly invests billions each year to help drive seller success through launching their products in its store, helping them scale and reach new customers, and build brands. Amazon says in 2021, the company and third-party lending partners provided more than $800 million to invest in the growth of small businesses throughout the nation.
Through its IWD and WHM efforts, Amazon is connecting customers to a wide range of products of women-owned small businesses they can discover and purchase. This thrust includes allowing customers to read stories about inspirational entrepreneurs and shop thousands of products from nearly 200 women-owned small businesses at http://www.amazon.com/WHM2022.
Ewah and Jones Gibson are included as subjects for its “Women-Owned Small Businesses | Amazon Conversation Series,” a collection of video chats between influencers like actress Keke Palmer, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, and style blogger Chriselle Lim and other female Amazon sellers. Today, Palmer, an entrepreneur in her own right, highlights the experiences and champions the diverse leadership displayed by Ewah and Gibson for today’s segment, “Redefining who gets to be a business success story.”
Finding Success In The Personal Care Space
For Obia Naturals, the journey began in 2012 when its founder and CEO Ewah used her dual bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biology to launch the product line to address her own sensitive skin needs. A chemist for private label cosmetic manufacturers, Ewah filled a void in the market with her formulas that used natural ingredients. She says: “In a few short years, what started out as botanical blends for friends and family blossomed into a global business.”
Due to lack of capital access, the determined entrepreneur started her venture with a $1,000 personal investment. She used a mix of reinvested revenue and personal loans from family and friends to stay in business. “When we first launched into a major retailer, we were able to accomplish that with just a $25,000 personal loan.”
She gained new customers for Dallas-based Obia Naturals in 2020 from people who supported Black-owned businesses, and its revenues rose 20% within a year, despite supply chain issues tied to the pandemic. Ewah says 2022 has started as an exceptional year and projects annual revenue of more than $1 million.
Ewah’s business was further bolstered through her participation in Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator (BBA). Amazon launched this $150 million, four-year effort last year, providing access to capital, strategic guidance, mentorship, marketing, and more to help Black entrepreneurs with physical, consumer products grow their companies and maximize selling opportunities in Amazon’s store.
Through Amazon, Obia Naturals expects to reach thousands of new customers by going global. Says Ewah: “We plan to expand to Amazon markets in Canada, France, and United Kingdom within the next year.”
Reaching Customers Through Multiple Platforms
As CEO and Chief Creative Officer at Culture Brands, Jones Gibson is making a huge splash in the marketing arena. She says her company exists to authentically celebrate, reflect, and represent African Americans in media. As such, Culture Brands has multiple platforms, including Because of Them We Can and CultureTags, which she describes as a “spirited guessing game that will test how well you know hashtags and the culture.” Other holdings for the Hyattsville, Maryland-based company include Because of Them We Can Box (Just For Kids) – and Dream Village.
After launching BOTWC four years earlier, she formed Culture Brands in 2017 to provide the infrastructure to scale the operation, enabling it to work “alongside socially conscious brands and organizations to create and amplify culturally relevant, and affirming, campaigns and products.”
Securing startup capital was no easy task, though. Jones Gibson explains: “Like most entrepreneurs who bootstrapped their companies, I leveraged personal funds, personal credit, and the assistance of family members to fund my business in the beginning.”
She developed CultureTags in late 2019 after “seeing acronyms posted online followed by hilarious commentary, and I knew that it was a game. Especially since my group chats were being overtaken by acronyms and abbreviations to express quick thoughts or sayings,” Gibson told black enterprise via email.
Elevating The Card Game With Amazon
She started a Kickstarter campaign to finance the game in late January 2020 and funded it the same day. “Altogether, we raised $35,000, which was more than double our original goal.” Citing that revenue has doubled each year, Jones Gibson is excited about the game’s growth prospects. She says her firm is creating a way for people to play CultureTags daily through a new website it plans to release this month. “We also have plans for additional expansion packs and versions, with some coming out as early as May this year.”
She maintains selling the game through Amazon “boosted sales by over 25%, and we’re just getting started. The opportunity on Amazon is massive, considering how many people engage with their site on a daily basis. I’m marching toward a goal of 1 million new customers through Amazon.” Jones Gibson says Culture Brands has been selling in Amazon’s store for the past 10 months.
So how is Amazon helping Gibson attract new customers and untapped markets? Jones Gibson says, “We are currently expanding our SKUs on Amazon, which will allow us to continue to grow our brand there as we build out our store and presence.” SKU, or stock keeping unit, represents an item used by retailers to identify and monitor inventory.
Jones Gibson says Culture Brands will continue to develop campaigns, content, and products that celebrate and honor Black culture. As another boon, the company secured another huge win last year when it was chosen by Hyundai to help boost the automaker’s brand presence. She asserts: “The significance of the deal with Hyundai is that we are their first African American marketing agency of record. They recognize the importance of their customers’ unique experiences and in the opportunity to ensure they are seen, represented, and celebrated along their journey.